ICC WTC Final: Mayank Agarwal still recovering from mental block after Playing XI snub, says childhood coach

ICC WTC Final, IND vs NZ: Mayank Agarwal still recovering from mental block after Playing XI snub, says childhood coach RX Murali

ICC WTC Final, IND vs NZ: It was the Australia tour in 2018 which made India opener Mayank Agarwal became a household name for his excellent debut series that included two 70+ scores. But the last Australia tour — Test series — was where the Karnataka batsman lost his place in the Playing XI with Shubman Gill staking his claim. As Virat Kohli’s Team India leaves for a nearly four-month-long England tour that will include the ICC WTC Final against New Zealand and five Tests against England, his coach RX Murali said Mayank is still working on the mental aspect to get his confidence back.

“It’s all about the mindset. You suddenly start creating doubts in your mind when it doesn’t match up. It takes you to a different spin altogether and you completely lose out on the mental process that you once created. It takes you to a mode when you start doubting everything. That’s what happened with Mayank,” RX Murali, Mayank Agarwal’s coach who has been with the Karnataka batsman since his childhood, told InsideSport in an exclusive chat.

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Mayank followed up with the excellent series in 2018 with a half-century against South Africa at their own backyard, a double century against Proteas at home and another double hundred against Bangladesh at home. But in the last eight innings, Mayank has hit a rough patch in Tests, scoring only 88 runs with his highest score being only 38. The difference between the 2018 Australia series and the 2020 Australia series is his mentality, reckons Murali.

ICC WTC Final, IND vs NZ: He was coming back off a fantastic domestic season scoring over 2,000 runs but in December 2020, he lost his rhythm with lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hampering his momentum. While many questioned his technique in Australia, coach RX Murali said Mayank Agarwal didn’t have to make massive changes in his technique. It is the mental aspects that needed some touch-up.

“For every overseas tour, a batsman needs to make certain adjustments. For example, in Australia, pitches are bouncier while in England, the ball moves laterally. So, what we have worked on is his agility. But that is always an ongoing process,” RX Murali said.

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“There is a lot of anxiety in a sportsperson. In sports, there are more failures than success. When you are anxious about failing and know that there is a lot of competition and if you don’t perform, you are out, that adds up more. One failure adds up to worry and that gets bigger and bigger and you completely lose out on the process. After the Australia series, he worked on the mental aspect and did well in IPL,” Murali added.

ICC WTC Final, IND vs NZ: His failure in Australia and Shubman Gill’s success meant Mayank Agarwal was benched with Rohit Sharma replacing him as the opener. The lack of opportunities translated into poor shows in the first two matches in the IPL 2021 for Punjab Kings until he hit back, scoring 69 against Delhi Capitals and an unbeaten 99 against the same opponent. That helped Mayank get the momentum back and get rid of the mental block.

“He already has the technique. All he needs is confidence. IPL performances definitely boosted his confidence massively. Before IPL, we worked on the mental aspects and it succeeded in the tournament. It gave him the template to work on as it is a continuous process,” Murali said.

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Mayank Agarwal, who captained Punjab Kings in the IPL 2021 in KL Rahul’s absence in one match before the tournament was suspended, also talked about not looking at the past scores and looking ahead instead. That would be his mantra going into the England tour where he will need to earn his place back, competing against his best friend and Karnataka teammate KL Rahul.

ICC WTC Final, IND vs NZ: However, one aspect that could derail the process is the lack of match practice in the last one month. IPL 2021 was suspended midway through the season and he did not have a chance to hit the nets in Bengaluru due to lockdowns. Practising with the Dukes ball would have been ideal but he will be without any practice for over a month as Team India will be in quarantine for over 14 days including 7 days in England. Coach RX Murali is concerned that the long quarantine could derail the progress Mayank made.

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“We could not prepare physically due to the ongoing lockdowns in Bengaluru. It is a major concern for not only Mayank but for all. There has been no bat and ball contact since the IPL. The first few days will be crucial and the mind will play a big role,” coach RX Murali signed off.

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